Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stanford International – Final Round

Annika Sorenstam defeated Paula Creamer on the first playoff hole to win the Stanford International Pro-Am, the 71st victory of her career. Karrie Webb and Young Kim finished tied for third at -7 one shot back while Momoko Ueda was fifth at –5.

Creamer birdied 2 and 3 to quickly seize the lead as Kim birdied 2 and 4 to tie Annika for second. Sorenstam birdied 6 to tie for the lead. Webb birdied five straight holes (2-6) to move into contention. Creamer bogeyed 7 (playing one shot from the water’s edge minus one shoe and sock) to fall one shot back. YK ultimately cost herself the tournament when she double-bogeyed both 7 and 8, at the time dropping herself back to -3. Paula rejoined the lead with birdie at 9. Karrie birdied 11 and 12 (giving her seven on the day) to get within one of the lead. Annika birdied 10 to go back in front but Creamer answered with a four-footer at 11.

Now trailing by two, Webb damaged her chances with bogey at 14 but birdied 16 and just missed birdies at 17 and 18 to get in the clubhouse at -7, which would ultimately prove significant. Young Kim hadn’t given up – birdies at 10, 11 and 16 had righted her ship to -6. Another birdie try at 17 missed right but her stiff third to 18 set up a kick-in birdie to finish -7. Both YK and Karrie will get to ponder the “what-ifs” tonight.

At 13, Sorenstam pushed her par putt right to fall back to -8. Creamer was unable to can birdie putts at 14 (from seven feet) or at 16 (eight feet). At 17 Paula’s tee shot nearly found the water but she had a reasonable chipping opportunity, which she left woefully short. From about 12 feet her par attempt burned the left edge, sending the pair to 18 all tied at -8. Neither player seriously considered going for the par-5’s green in two. Annika played her third to about 10 feet above the hole while Creamer pulled hers left, leaving at least a 30-footer down a 3.5-foot slope. Paula coaxed her putt to within a foot (brilliantly played) and tapped in. Putting to win, Sorenstam’s birdie attempt curled to the right and missed.

Replaying the 18th for the first playoff hole, each player’s first two shots were mirror images of 20 minutes earlier. Creamer’s third went right over the flag, but landed in the fringe about 18 feet away. Annika put hers in almost the same spot she had previously, but this time was only about 8 feet up the hill. Paula’s putt bounced off the fringe and rolled nearly seven feet past the hole. Again with a putt to win, Annika played more break this time and it curled around the hole, again failing to fall. Putting uphill, Creamer’s par attempt stopped two inches short and Sorenstam had won.

Not only did ESPN get an exciting duel and playoff showdown, they got it between the two players in the field whom they probably would have hand-picked for it had they gotten the chance (ok, maybe they would have picked Gulbis instead of Annika). First one of these we’ve seen this year and I was starting to miss them – no offense, Lorena. Those other kind of finishes make for dull final-round recaps.

Kudos to Young Kim for not tanking after the two doubles, to Angela Park and Seon Hwa Lee for carding 69s and finishing T6, Lindsey Wright for posting 65 (which would have been the Round of the Day if not for Webb) and Jane Park, whose 66 got her to T12. Cristie Kerr dropped five shots in five holes on the back nine and wound up T6. Dorothy Delasin couldn’t hold it together – she put up 79 and fell to T39. Ueda seems to be back on track after a few weeks’ lull (maybe she was that Asian player Larry was talking about!).

Grace Park shot 70 today to finish T20. It wasn’t the ending I was hoping for, but I hope she takes as many positives from the performance as I did. The big numbers have been Grace’s bane the last couple of years and she only took one (a double) in 72 holes in an event that battered many of her peers. Her 73 on Saturday was her highest round of the week. Go get ‘em at Tulsa.

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